Iron Man Alumni: Part III
The Iron Man match has been criticized because it can lose the crowd in the middle of the match. I have also read opinions of those who believe that the match isn?t worth watching until the last few minutes. The problem with that line of thinking is that you deny yourself the story of the match. I don?t know about the rest for you, but I do not watch wrestling matches only for the end result. Longer matches have always been a pleasure for me to watch because the story slowly escalates, making the climax all the more exciting. For those who don?t like Iron Man matches, I wonder what they think of football or baseball. If an Iron Man match isn?t worth watching until the last few minutes, then they would have to feel the same way about any other sporting events in which a designated of time must pass before the ending may come about. But I digress. It is time to finish the Iron Man Alumni. I apologize in advance for not including TNA matches on this list. If I were to examine those we would have to do at least one more week on this subject, if not two. Maybe someday the Nosebleeds can play with those matches.
Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit, Backlash 2001
In the early to middle part of 2001, these two were involved in some of the greatest matches of the year. At Wrestlemania X-7, they were up against TLC II, Undertaker-Triple H, Shane-Vince, and Austin-Rock, yet these two still put on a memorable show. In May, they put on a great 2 of 3 falls bout, and then concluded their 2001 feud in a steel cage on Raw a few weeks later. However, my personal favorite match of theirs in 2001 was their match at Backlash. This was not your typical Iron Man match, it is best known as the Ultimate Submission match. A thirty minute time limit was designated and the only way to score a fall was to make your opponent submit. The man with the most submissions after thirty minutes was the winner. What I like so much about this match was its concentration on wrestling. After Wrestlemania X-7, fans were anticipating the arrival of WCW superstars. In the meantime, the top storyline was the alliance between Triple H and Steve Austin. While there was definitely downtime between Wrestlemania and the WCW invasion, Angle and Benoit kept me fascinated with the WWF, and this match was my favorite of theirs.
Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar, Smackdown 2003
I may draw some criticism here, but I was actually disappointed by this match. I know! Who would have thought these two could disappoint? After a great match at Wrestlemania XIX, I found their Summerslam rematch to be even better. A few weeks later they culminated their feud on an episode of Smackdown in a sixty minute Iron Man match. Don?t get me wrong, I enjoyed the match and thought it was definitely a match of the year candidate. But I was shocked when it was voted PWI’s Match of the Year for 2003. I understood their Wrestlemania match probably wouldn?t win because of Lesnar landing on his face and upper chest when attempting a shooting star press, and I understood the Summerslam rematch not wining because it was likely not as many fans, but to say the Iron Man match they had was their best really surprised me. However, like I said, that doesn?t mean the match was bad. It was actually very good. Lesnar was a cruel heel, dominating Angle for a majority of the match. I liked the story they built with Angle using the last fifteen to twenty minutes to catch up in falls with Brock. In the last few moments, with one fall to go to tying Lesnar, Angle put on the ankle lock. In the end, Lesnar was able to hold on and reclaim the WWE Championship.
John Cena vs. Randy Orton, Bragging Rights 2009
The verdict still seems to be out on this one. Some loved this match, others hated it. I thought the weeks leading up to it, and the match itself, told a great story of two equals, with different motivations, struggling to claim the top of the hill known as Raw. Orton’s dastardly deeds could not overpower Cena’s will. For now Cena has put Orton behind him and has claimed the Raw main event as his own while Orton must work his way back p to the top over the next few months. I think it’s pretty obvious we haven?t seen the last of these two in the ring together, but for now, Cena has claimed victory over Orton.
The Iron Man match tells stories of men digging deeper within themselves than they ever have to claim victory over their foes. It becomes less of a matter of who can have the advantage for three seconds, and one of a man who can claim to just be better than his opponent demonstrated through an entire thirty or sixty minutes in which he over and over again claims victory. Men like Rick Rude and Bret Hart tried to use their veteran skills to prevent the other man from taking their place, while men like Dustin Rhodes and Shawn Michaels used their hearts to win audience affection and eventually their victory. Men like Angle and Orton suffered disappointing losses, having to come to terms that as good as they were, the man on the other side of the ring was just a little bit better. When will we see another Iron Man match? Only time will tell. By that time wrestling may be in a very different place, as it has been with each Iron Man match in the past. The next time, like all other times before, I look forward to it.
Thanks for reading.